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Referral requests: 4 steps to conquering discomfort

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Advisors who operate at a high level possess one key distinction over those advisors who operate at a more moderate level: Successful advisors are willing to do uncomfortable things, the kinds of things that are uncomfortable for almost everyone.

Successful people manage to do them, while those who aren’t succeeding at a high level will do just about anything to avoid the feeling of discomfort. It’s easy to understand why advisors don’t like to make cold calls — they’re uncomfortable for just about everyone. But many advisors seem reluctant to do something even as simple as asking for, obtaining and following up on referrals.

When confronted with something uncomfortable, most of us just won’t rise to the challenge, even if it means failing to achieve our goals. When we are forced into an uncomfortable situation with absolutely no choice in the matter, however, human beings have an incredible ability to rise to the occasion. People successfully move beyond being fired, going through a divorce, dealing with life-threatening illnesses or surviving the death of a loved one. Often they say, “It was the best thing ever to happen to me. I’m stronger, better and more equipped to live a more productive, successful and happy life.” That means we all have the capacity to handle discomfort. We simply have to choose to harness it to achieve our goals.

So why do we avoid deliberately putting ourselves in “controlled” uncomfortable situation to make ourselves stronger and better, to achieve higher levels of success and happiness? More important, how can we do this on purpose so we can be stronger, better, more successful and happier?

At the 1940 convention of the National Association of Life Underwriters, Albert Gray said, “The common denominator of success — the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful — lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.” Gray’s words are quoted often within our industry, yet even more significant are the lines he spoke next: “The things that failures don’t like to do are the very things that you and I and other human beings, including successful men, naturally don’t like to do. In other words, we’ve got to realize right from the start that success is something that is achieved by the minority of men, and is therefore unnatural and not to be achieved by following our natural likes and dislikes nor by being guided by our natural preferences and prejudices.”

When it comes to asking for referrals and following up, for example, I look at it as a necessity — you can’t build your business without it. As far as I can tell, there’s no comfortable method for filling your appointment calendar. But if you don’t have any experience doing the things that are optional and uncomfortable, you’ll probably tend to avoid them.

What discomfort are you avoiding that needs to be faced in order for you to be the success you’re really capable of being? Are you asking yourself “what if” questions that discourage you?

  • What if I hire the staff I really need, but it doesn’t work out? (Implication: I’ve wasted time, effort and money.)
  • What if I confront a staff person who isn’t getting the job done and he quits? (Implication: I’m stuck doing paperwork for a while, and I’m forced to go out and find the right person for the job.)
  • What if I ask for referrals and I offend a client? (Implication: The client fires me and tells everyone in the community what a bad person and advisor I am.)
  • What if I follow up on a referral and the person doesn’t appreciate my call? (Implication: He calls my client because he is angry. Then the client gets mad that his friend is mad, so the client fires me and tells everyone in the community what a bad person and advisor I am.)
  • What if I make that investment in my business and it doesn’t turn out like I hoped? (Implication: I’ve wasted my time, effort and money.)
  • What if I give a client bad advice? (Implication: The client fires me and tells everyone in the community what a bad person and advisor I am.)

If questions like these are standing between you and your success, stop asking such lousy questions and try these four ideas instead:

#1: Ask better questions
Maybe you’re focusing on the wrong bad things. The consequences of not asking for referrals and following up are much greater than the worst-case scenario your imagination can conjure up.

Instead of focusing on all the bad things that might happen if you do what needs to be done, ask yourself what will happen if you don’t do it. Mark Allen, the six-time Ironman Triathlon world champion, asks the question, “Are you willing to do the work that the goal requires?” If you’re not succeeding at the level you really want, you might want to spend some time thinking about that question. If you want to be a successful financial advisor — someone who has the right number of ideal clients to generate enough gross business revenue to live the life you want — are you willing to do what it takes?

#2: Give yourself empowering answers
As long as you’re talking to yourself anyway, why not focus on the positive? What are some amazing, incredible, fantastic things that could happen?

#3: Stop making excuses
It’s amazing how often I hear advisors say, “That successful person was just in the right place at the right time.” No, the truth is that nearly every successful person has worked hard and taken uncomfortable actions consistently and diligently over a long enough period of time to become successful today.

#4: Make it a habit to choose discomfort
The next time you find yourself avoiding something just because it’s uncomfortable, do it anyway. This applies to both personal and business decisions. Have you been putting off a preventative or diagnostic medical procedure because you know it will be uncomfortable? Have you been avoiding a personal issue or uncomfortable conversation? Schedule that doctor’s appointment, mammogram, or colonoscopy. Talk to that family member about how you really feel. Yes, these things may be uncomfortable, but do them anyway. It will eventually come more naturally to you and the results will inspire you.

Here’s the bottom line. To become an even more successful financial advisor, you’re going to have to do things that are uncomfortable. Remember the advice offered by Albert Gray and Mark Allen. Don’t let discomfort be the deciding factor in determining what you do or avoid doing. If you’re going to do anything significant in life, you must push past the discomfort. In doing so, you’ll also set a great example for people around you and earn their trust and respect.